Utility International, a Utah-based startup centered on stable oxide electrolyzer know-how, claims to have acquired funding affords from oil majors after developing with what it calls a hydrogen breakthrough.
The innovation is a brand new stable oxide electrochemical reactor design that Utility International, a spinout from Utah analysis hub Corridor Labs, says can be utilized to ship blue hydrogen 30 p.c cheaper and with 30 p.c much less carbon emissions than conventional steam methane reforming.
Blue hydrogen is constructed from pure fuel within the means of steam methane reformation, with the ensuing emissions curtailed via carbon seize and storage. Blue hydrogen is one among a number of strategies aiming to chop the carbon emissions related to industrial manufacturing of the fuel. It’s purportedly cleaner than the present industrial processes however nonetheless a great distance from being zero-emission or ‘inexperienced’ hydrogen, which is made utilizing renewable energy and electrolyzers.
Just like the inexperienced selection, blue hydrogen is dear to provide in contrast to the standard carbon-intensive manufacturing processes used right this moment. By decreasing blue hydrogen’s prices, Utility International’s know-how might pace up hydrogen’s much-vaunted substitute of fossil fuels.
Utility International’s daring claims sound reminiscent to much-hyped power sector failures starting from Solyndra to Faraday Grid. However a number of specialists instructed GTM that Utility International’s idea, no less than, seems to face as much as scrutiny.
“Utility International has a novel method and a novel reactor design that appears promising by way of decreasing the associated fee and offering another pathway to producing hydrogen,” mentioned Ryan Milcarek, who reviewed the know-how as an assistant professor at Arizona State College.
“The know-how relies on stable oxide electrochemical reactions that are additionally utilized in standard electrolysis,” Milcarek mentioned. “Utility International has an unconventional means of producing the hydrogen that differs from all present know-how I’m conscious of.”
One other specialist, who requested to not be named, in contrast Utility International’s idea to that being developed by listed U.Okay. agency AFC Vitality, which has seen its share value rise this yr amid rising curiosity in hydrogen as a substitute gasoline.
A cleaner and cheaper solution to make hydrogen?
Utility International’s discovery facilities on stable oxide gasoline cells. These can act as chemical reactors in addition to energy mills, though to this point a lot of the focus of know-how growth has been on the latter utility, specialists say.
Boiled down, “it is an environment friendly model of steam methane reforming that makes use of electrolysis to do the separation of the hydrogen somewhat than mechanical compressors and stress swing adsorption [used in most blue hydrogen production processes],” Matt Dawson, Utility International’s chief government officer, defined in an interview.
“As a substitute of utilizing electrical energy to separate off the hydrogen from all the opposite parts, we use warmth. Warmth is a less expensive useful resource. That’s why we may be 30 p.c cheaper and 30 p.c extra CO2-efficient. The structure of our electrochemical machine is exclusive.”
Dawson mentioned Utility International is hoping to make use of its know-how to switch hydrogen manufacturing via conventional steam methane reformation, referred to as ‘grey’ hydrogen — a $100 billion market.
Over the lengthy time period, Dawson mentioned the corporate might additionally use stable oxide electrolyzer stacks to provide inexperienced hydrogen, though this might require very low-cost reneawble power provides to be aggressive on price.
Utility International has filed 60 provisional patents round its stable oxide gasoline cell and electrolyzer know-how, Dawson mentioned. No patents have been granted but. The know-how has been examined at Arizona State College and is now present process additional checks on the Division of Vitality’s Pacific Northwest Nationwide Laboratory, Dawson mentioned.
Relocating to Houston
“We’re scaling up and constructing a large-scale pilot,” mentioned Dawson, whose resume consists of stints at Equinor, ExxonMobil and Schlumberger. “We’re relocating to Houston, Texas, so we are able to have Air Liquide and Exxon and Shell come and see this factor in motion.”
The pilot plant, because of enter operation within the first quarter of subsequent yr, will produce 100 kilos of hydrogen a day, he mentioned. The know-how might be plugged into current hydrogen manufacturing processes or used on a standalone foundation wherever wanted, he added.
Utility International solely developed the reactor design final yr however has already attracted seed funding from Corridor Labs and $5 million from Houston-based Ara Companions, which is anticipated to final two years.
Since then the corporate has turned down funding affords from a number of Fortune 500 oil firms, Dawson claimed. “Ara Companions’ perspective on [the investment offers] was a few of these firms could not have the greenest status and so possibly we do not wish to take them in — no less than on this spherical.”
One issue including to Utility International’s credibility is its affiliation with Pacific Northwest Nationwide Laboratory, the place stable oxide gasoline cell know-how analysis is led by one of many world’s foremost specialists on the topic, Subhash Singhal.
“From my perspective, the method appears to be like very promising,” Milcarek mentioned. “The know-how seems credible and promising based mostly on the scientific rules concerned and our analysis of some elements of the system.”
The know-how additionally seems to be properly outfitted for scale up, Milcarek mentioned. ”Primarily based on the analysis I used to be concerned with I didn’t see any apparent drawbacks or challenges. Extra analysis and growth will inform.”